Schools Reopening: An Update from NBC Boston

With September fast approaching, we thought it was a good time for an update on the plan for schools reopening in Massachusetts. After a push from teachers unions, Massachusetts is allowing schools to start 10 days later so districts can have more time to prepare for the school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Teachers unions and state officials signed a memorandum of understanding Monday that shortens the upcoming school year by 10 days, from 180 to 170 days. The agreement requires, however, that schools start their academic years no later than September 16.

Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy wrote about the back-and-forth between unions and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on the MTA’s website, accusing Commissioner Jeffrey Riley of creating confusion and anxiety when the state released new guidance last week “without advance warning.”

“COVID-19 is going to be with us for a full year – it’s naturally going to change how schools operate and we have 24 hours to plan crisis learning remotely this spring and not a single minute of the 13-plus weeks since to reflect and revise,” Najimy said. “This 10 days gives us a chance to do that.”

Najimy credits the “win” to public pressure, describing a flood of emails and phone calls to the commissioner’s office on the issue.

Riley, in a letter to school administrators, said that the state education board has a “shared commitment,” to back-to-school safety with the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association, AFT-Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers’ Union, and that they “are collaborating to support a successful start to the school year.”

The state’s largest teachers union has more demands that they say officials have yet to address, including forgoing the requirement for full in-person learning plans, canceling the state’s primary standardized test and beefing up safety and public health standards.

After Gov. Charlie Baker and Education Commissioner Jeff Riley released initial guidelines for schools reopening, the MTA, American Federation of Teachers of Massachusetts and Boston Teachers Union put forward their own proposal calling for a phased reopening.

Massachusetts officials have issued guidance to school districts on how to deal with students and staff who test positive for coronavirus when in-person education resumes.

Among the protocols are requirements for coronavirus testing or a two-week quarantine for students and staff who come in close contact with someone who tests positive. Students should continue with remote learning during the quarantine period, according to the guidelines. If students or staff show coronavirus symptoms they are urged to stay home and get tested.

Bus drivers should be trained to screen for symptoms, according to the guidelines, and turn students away if they appear sick. If the student is on the bus already, bus drivers should ensure that all children keep their masks on and inform the school nurse. The nurse should meet the student when the bus arrives, which would then be disinfected.

In more than a dozen pages of guidelines, other protocols address what to do about individual exposure or individual positive tests, if a student appears symptomatic at school and if staff are symptomatic at home or school.

The guidance also outlines protocols for potential school closures, the presence of multiple cases in a school or a significant number of new cases in a town and the possibility that the state regresses to a previous schools reopening phase.

The directives come after two school staff members in Quincy tested positive for COVID-19, one of them at North Quincy High School. The 12 students and four other staffers who came in close contact with the individual were told to get tested and quarantine for two weeks.

Sourced from For the most up-to-date information, visit their website.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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